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Australia : Rebuilding or Rebuilt?


'Take what you can. Give nothing back.' So said Cap'n Jack Sparrow to his trusted companion Mr. Gibbs in the Pirates of the Caribbean. It isn't hard to imagine Michael Clarke saying this to his Australian teammates. They seem to be playing cricket by this very code. The fear of loss has been buried by the desire to win. For Clarke and co., every match is another opportunity to party with the spoils of victory. In this haze of aggression, Clarke has perhaps revived the ghosts of a dominant past.

When every superhero is beat down, there is always a side character who helps him stand up. Batman has Alfred. Superman has Lois Lane. Spiderman has Mary Jane and Aunt May. The character plays a minuscule yet a pivotal part in the resurrection as it were, of the central character. They instil the belief required to defeat the antagonist. More often than not, this belief is all that is required to win a war. Of course, the super strength, spider sense and cool gadgets don't hurt either. In a team that required an injection of belief, Michael Clarke has taken the syringe and pricked it into the backside of every person in his team. And they have responded.

The Australian team is relatively new. Apart from a few players, the rest are still learning what it means to play Test cricket. Clarke and Hussey have been in good form with the bat, which has taken pressure off of the younger batsmen. However, albeit inconsistently Cowan, Warner and Hughes have been doing their bit. Matthew Wade's batting and keeping still leave a lot to be desired. The bowling attack has differed in terms of personnel, but performance wise it has delivered time and again. In times of transition, what has kept this team up amongst the best of the world is Michael Clarke's captaincy.

Declaring in a position of strength has been done by almost every captain. But declaring when behind or in uncertain circumstances requires a big heart. Clarke has been doing this without so much as a second thought. If the team loses, Clarke faces the ignominy of audacious behaviour. However, for him the team is not one that excludes McGrath, Warne, Gilly, Lee et al. It is one that has players who are willing to do what is required for victory.

Siddle has been at the forefront when it comes to repaying the captain's faith. The wisdom in keeping him only for Tests is evident in the way he runs in hard ball after ball. If someone offers 100% over 5 days, it would be unwise to risk overworking him in the shorter formats. Buoyed by Siddle's spirit, Mitchell Starc also came up with an outstanding spell in the final session against Sri Lanka. Under the aegis of Clarke, Nathan Lyon also has blossomed as an attacking off spinner. Pattinson, Cummins and even Hilfenhaus are on their way to becoming feared bowlers.

It obviously helps when there is a bevy of equally good fast bowlers to choose from. But every bowler, requires a good mentor and guide on the field. This is where Clarke has been so good. His decisions inspire belief in his bowlers. His field placings are designed to take wickets not defend. His intent is to win the match, no matter how herculean the task. This has rubbed off on all and sundry.

Australia lost a single Test against South Africa and with that the series. Nevertheless, that loss was the result of just a couple of bad sessions over 45 sessions. The first two matches were dominated by Australia. Against a team like South Africa, a team that is rebuilding could not have achieved so much.

Cricket Australia could not have asked for a better man to lead during this period. For Clarke, the glory days are not in the past. For him those days never left the shores of Australia. He currently is a brilliant captain, because in his eyes the team is not rebuilding but already rebuilt.

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